NICOLA Sturgeon has said there is “no legal basis at this time” to suspend Alex Salmond from the SNP following accusations of sexual harassment.

The First Minister said her party had not received any complaints about her predecessor’s conduct – nor had it carried out an investigation into them – but the matter would be reconsidered if the situation changes.

It comes after opposition parties called for the SNP to suspend Salmond over the allegations, which he denies. In a statement yesterday Sturgeon said: “As SNP leader, it is important that I set out the reasons for the party’s current position as clearly as I can.

“The SNP, like all organisations, must act in accordance with due process.

“In this case, unlike in some previous cases, the investigation into complaints about Alex Salmond has not been conducted by the SNP and no complaints have been received by the party.”

She added: “Also, for legal reasons, the limited information I have about the Scottish Government investigation cannot at this stage be shared with the party – and, rightly, it is the party, not me as leader, that has the power to suspend membership.

“In summary, the party has no legal basis at this time to suspend Alex Salmond’s membership.

“Of course, should that situation change, the matter will be reconsidered, as it would be for any member.

“The party’s rules apply to all members and no one is above them.”

The claims about Salmond’s alleged conduct towards two staff members in 2013 – while he was in office – have been handed to Police Scotland who have said they are assessing the information and inquiries are at an early stage.

Leslie Evans, Permanent Secretary at the Scottish Government, said the complaints were raised in January and Salmond was notified in March about an investigation.

She intended to make a statement regarding the complaints but the move was halted after the former first minister initiated legal proceedings.

The First Minister has faced calls from opposition parties to suspend Salmond from the SNP since the Daily Record newspaper broke the news of the investigation on Thursday.

The paper claims to have seen the wording of one of the complaints, which describes an alleged incident at the first minister’s official residence Bute House in Edinburgh in December 2013.

The two complaints were raised in January and are being investigated by the Scottish Government under a new procedure put in place in the wake of wider concerns about harassment at Westminster and Holyrood.

Salmond strongly denies harassing anyone or engaging in criminality. He has described some of the allegations as “patently ridiculous” and has criticised the complaint handling procedure as “unjust”. He has begun legal action seeking a judicial review of the Scottish Government’s handling of the complaints.

A source close to Alex Salmond told The National that the manner in which the story had been leaked to the Daily Record was proof the former First Minister “cannot get justice from the Scottish Government”.

They told us: “It is patently nonsensical to suggest that Alex Salmond should be subjected to a trial by media. He will fight this the whole way and he says that the latest leak is proof that this situation has to go to the highest court in the land as he cannot get justice from the Scottish Government.”

The source added: “He’s been stitched up by the civil service.”

The SNP suspended former MP Michelle Thomson in 2015 after it emerged police were investigating allegations concerning property dealings. No criminal proceedings were brought.

Ex children’s minister Mark McDonald was suspended after admitting “inappropriate behaviour” towards women.Sturgeon said on Friday complaints against Salmond could not be “swept under the carpet”.